Tareq, who is of Libyan descent but raised in Geneva, was quick to realize after a trip to California that Geneva’s Mexican food scene just couldn’t compare. Making the kind of move many of us only dream about, he pivoted from his career path and decided he wanted to open a taquería. A friend put him in touch with Rodolfo Castellanos, a famous chef (and recent winner of Top Chef Mexico) from Oaxaca, a state in Mexico known as the wellspring of Mexican gastronomy, and before long Tareq was in Oaxaca, too, learning all about the history and complexity of Mexican cuisine at the Academia of Rodolfo’s restaurant, Origen. It was there he fell in love, not just once, but twice: with Mexican food itself, but also with Rodolfo’s sister, Gabriela, who also happens to be chef, was overseeing the Academia at the time.
Their story has a sprinkle of Hollywood movie magic to it: their courtship continues after he returns to Switzerland, they visit each other, and before long, Tareq proposes. But while waiting for the necessary paperwork and arrangements for Gabriela to move to Switzerland, Tareq begins making tacos over the summer of 2015 as Taco Toots. Gabriela finally arrives and sets a few things straight. Enter taco perfection. They joined Apero Terroir du Monde for a few iterations of Apero Taco, and eventually, through a combination of persistence and luck, they found their current space and opened El Catrín in April 2016.
by DAISY LARIOS on 10/10/2016 at